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Greek grammar... semicolon;

Week 13, Episode 26

To get the idea of the Greek language you need to think a bit differently than in English. Start with reminding yourself how old this language really is and that through its long evolution it did get simplified, but the ancient power is still strong. Let's see into this.

In Greek all kinds of changes are happening to words: with nouns, with verbs, with adjectives. Even with articles! Greek language has something that English doesn't (but Russian, by the way, does)—cases! There are 4 of them, however normally you use 3: nominative, genitive, acusative.

And genders? There are 3: masculine, feminine and neuter. Even things, including concrete objects and abstract ideas, have a gender. Sadly enough, there is no way to predict it from the semantics of the noun that causes a lot of frustration to the learners of Greek. 

So for articles, that can be definite or indefinite, there are 27 different types of it for each gender and case in singular and plural form. Even a question word "Who" changes by number and gender! This is a great start!

You love conjugations, i.e. when a verb has a special form for every pronoun in every tense? Then there is so much fun for you in Greek! It has 8 tenses (2 Present, 3 Past, 3 Future tenses) and rules for the accent that changes in some verbs when they are being conjugated.

When you start learning Greek, you find out that it is divided into Ancient Greek (often thought of as a dead language) and Modern Greek. Modern Greek is derived from Koine, a common dialect of Ancient Greek that was understood throughout the Greek-speaking world at that time. Don't get confused with the word "modern" for the beginning of Modern Greek is often symbolically assigned to the fall of the Byzantine Empire in 1453 which is not that recent.

But Ancient Greek has deep roots in the alphabet and the origins of the words and this is causing so much complications in writing, because spelling becomes unpredictable. You see, in Modern Greek there are 5 ways to write the "ee" (as in "geek") sound: letters η (ee-tah), ι (yo-tah), υ (ee-psee-lon), and diphthongs ει, οι, all of which are read identically.

They made different sounds in Ancient Greek, though—hence different spelling. However now the spelling stayed ancient (but simplified, without all the diacritics) and the pronunciation has changed. So by ear you will never guess which one of the "ee"s is there. But if you go a bit deeper, to the core of the words and their etimology, then spelling will become your friend.

And then, after the abundance of "ee"s, you discover there is a basic element missing in Greek—the question mark! What; I say, whaaat;;; It is not a typo—in Greek at the end of a question there is the semicolon. True story.

Isn't that just mind-blowing—a language with no question marks;;;

Also Modern Greek (as Ancient Greek) has no infinitives, or so called initial form of a verb (in English—the one with the particle "to"). For naming a verb, the first-person singular of the present tense is used as a generic term. For example, they refer to the verb γράφω (grah-foh)—I write—as "to write".

And this is not even a half of all Greek "surprises" in the language. At least, I warned you about articles, so that when you are done with the alphabet and move on to the next chapter in you textbook, you won't get discouraged rapidly and utterly. Now you know what is on the way and you are fully armed...

By the way, the alphabet! This is something worth discussing in the next episode.

Τα λέμε! (Tah leh-meh)See you! 

" I am an awesome article! Like me! "

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